It is actually very beautiful. It is a restoration of the Ottoman-era synagogue, built in 1864 on the ruins (“hurva”) of the structure built in 1700 and destroyed by arson in 1721. The Ottoman-era structure was destroyed by explosives just after the Jordanian army overran the position which was being used by the Haganah on 27 May 1948. See our previous post here .
The Israeli government approved its reconstruction in the fateful millennial year 2000, and restoration work began in 2005. It was triumphantly and “joyously” reopened by Israel on 15 March 2010, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of East Jerusalem.
As we reported yesterday, just below, the Jerusalem Post write in an editorial yesterday that “From the time it was finished in 1864 until it was blown up by the Jordanian Legion during the 1948 War of Independence, the Hurva was undoubtedly the most impressive synagogue in the land of Israel … Twice destroyed and twice rebuilt, the Hurva is a symbol of the Jewish people’s tenacious insistence on returning to its rightful land against all odds” …
Haaretz reported that the Hurva Synagogue, “considered the most important synagogue in the country for many years”, has been restored over the last five years.
The Wikipedia entry for the Hurva Synagogue here, says that when built under the Ottomans, it was one of the tallest structures in the Old City of Jerusalem, and “visible for miles”, and that “From 1864 onwards, the Hurva Synagogue was considered the most beautiful and most important synagogue in the Land of Israel”.
Citing a reference in a book on Jerusalem: The Future of the Past, written by Haifa-born architect Moshe Safdie [now a Canadian national – Safdie left Israel at the age of 15, five years after its creation], the Wikipedia entry reports that the Haganah made a last stand in the Hurva Synagogue on 25-27 May 1948 — and noted that “The question of whether responsibility for its destruction should rest on the shoulders of the Arab Legion or on the Haganah who had turned it into their last stronghold is debatable. What is for certain is that the building was deliberately mined and blown up after the Arabs [n.b. – specifically, Jordanian troops] had captured the area”.
It is interesting that, actually, the involvement of Jordanian forces is receiving minimal play in the Israeli media coverage of this event … which is being described as totally non-political.
There was reportedly at least one Jewish wedding celebrated during today’s ceremony at the Hurva Synagogue.